Thursday, July 6

My Home Remodel Update

Master bathroom before

I bought our house in 2014 for $45,000.   It was a real steal.  The MLS listed the house as a 2 bedroom, 1 bath foreclosure.  In reality, the house was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath.  In Tampa Bay, the institutional buyers who were buying up hundreds of homes site unseen were buying three bedroom houses, so mine flew under their radar.

Even then, $45,000 was ridiculous for a house in this area.  It was so low because there were so many problems, including water damage.  Not being scared of a little work, all I saw was opportunity.  We did much of the work ourselves.  The back yard was grass and sand.  Now there is a 224 square foot patio, partially covered, and an extensive tropical garden with seashell paths and bird fountains.  We added drywall to the walls and ceilings (the bank replaced the roof before I bought it), gutted and re-did the kitchen, and painted the whole house.  When it was time to start the bathrooms, I was a little burnt out.  We began demolition in one bathroom, and I started to realize there were a lot of little things I had no idea how to do.  Ultimately, I decided to hire a contractor.

During the last few months I've had contractors working inside our house to remodel both bathrooms.  I am really happy with the work they did and don't regret the expense.  In total, I spent close to $18,000 to completely remodel both bathrooms.  In the master bathroom, this included converting the green bathtub to a full shower with insets for soap and shampoo.

Master bathroom after

Behind all that's pretty, the plumber replaced the old shower valve as well as all the shut-off valves.  Drywall was replaced with mold-resistant tile board.  The old vanity was so damaged that the drawers wouldn't open and close, and the 70's era wallpaper was peeling.  Now I have clean, bright walls, with a full tile shower and four feet of tile that wraps around the entire bathroom.  There's a brand new window to let in lots of sunlight.

In the second bathroom, the pink (yes, it was PINK) tub with the broken sliding glass doors was replaced with a white tub with tile walls and a curved shower rod.  It too was gutted and all the plumbing was upgraded.  A new window was installed there, too.

The contractor is wrapping up one last (small) project for me, and then I will take a break from any major work to replenish the bank account.  One advantage to buying a foreclosure is that you have some control over how much the house costs you.  I paid cash for this house, so I don't have the traditional expense of a mortgage.  Instead, I decide when to spend money on the house.  There's plenty left to do, but nothing that keeps us from living here or that makes us uncomfortable.  Well, the air conditioner might need to be replaced, which is a comfort issue.   In the coming months, I hope to replace the old wooden fence that's falling apart with a vinyl one.  There are a few electrical upgrades that need to be done.  The laundry room needs new walls and I might tile the floor.  Then there's the carport and the peeling blue paint.  Oh, the list goes on!

Monday, July 3

My Frugal Miser - June Expenses: $8,354


I spent more in June than I made.  There were four main reasons.  I had surgery on my sinuses, which cost over $1,600 out of pocket.  Second, I made another payment to the contractor who is remodeling the bathroom ($3,000).  My annual homeowner's insurance premium was due, costing me $880.  Last, we spent two weeks in Europe.  Those three expenses made up almost $7,000 of my spending.

We spent $1,666 in the vacation category:  $445 was towards a trip to Vegas we are taking in September.  The remaining $1,221 was for the two weeks we were in Europe.  This includes food, tours, transportation, and everything else during our trip except the flights and the AirBnb in Iceland, which were paid before our trip.  All-in, our two week European vacation cost less than $2,000.  The three days in Iceland were a disproportionate part of the cost:  Iceland is very expensive.

June Expenses:  $8,354

$28 Auto ($28 gas)
$23 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$0 Computer
$63 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$283 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$3,038 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$880 Homeowner's Insurance (annual payment)
$28 Health and Dental Insurance (prepaid 2017 health insurance premiums in December 2016)
$0 Investment Expense
$298 Interest Expense*
$1,613 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$35 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$88 Sharing Economy Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$310 Utilities
$1,666 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In June, I paid $285 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Saturday, July 1

My Frugal Miser - June Income: $7,753


June was a softer month for income as expected.  We spent two weeks in Europe at the beginning of the month, and I didn't work a single hospitality meeting in June.  The mystery shopping/hospitality category was negative.  In addition to paying for flights to New Orleans for an upcoming meeting, I was out of pocket for several mystery shops I completed but will be paid for in July.

All rental properties are occupied and current.

June Income: $7,753

($159) Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs (expenses exceeded income)
$225 Uber
$201 Lyft
$0 Postmates
$718 Amazon Deliveries
$6,407 Rental Income
$214 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
$0 Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$147 Other Sources

Notes:  
  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 

Tuesday, June 6

How I've Become Less Frugal Since This Blog Started

Every time I write my monthly spending report, I ask myself whether I am being as frugal as I possibly can be.  Of course, the answer is no.  There's a tricky balance between spending as little as possible and paying for the conveniences that make my life better.

There are a handful of expenses I could do without, but right now I choose not to:

  • I pay $26/month for an unlimited car wash package.  When a new car wash opened up a mile from my house, I caved.  It's so much easier to run the car through the wash and use the free vacuums.  I'm more likely to drive for Uber in my spare time now that my car is always clean.
  • I pay $35/month for a Wall Street Journal subscription.  I want to make money from investing and need the proper tools to do so.
  • I pay annual fees on three credit cards.  While I recently canceled two credit cards that charge an annual fee, I've decided to keep the other three for now.  It's simple:  the value I get from these cards is worth more than the fee I pay each year.  With that said, I may get rid of the Marriott Rewards card.  I get a free night each year, but the annual fee is $85.  On the IHG card, I also get a free night but only pay $49/year.


Sometimes I wonder if I justify my expenses as a way to avoid the effort of getting rid of them.  I don't think I am doing that.  Most of these costs help me either make more money or save money.   Plus, we continue to be more frugal than most of our peers.  Some of the things we don't spend money on include:

  • cable TV
  • trash removal
  • drinking at bars
  • expensive cars
  • jewelry, expensive clothes, and other status symbols